Look back - at Lennox Gardens

Often missed by passing visitors, Lennox Gardens is a beautiful secret find on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. Home to the Beijing Garden, which was designed in the Imperial Chinese garden style of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912) and Canberra Nara Peace Park, both feature sculptures and enticing plantings. The gardens host the Canberra Nara Candle Festival each spring (Canberra Nara Candle Festival 26 October 2019).

The Canberra Nara Candle festival lights up with 2000 candles at dusk.
Canberra Nara Candle Festival

Look around - in Braddon

In suburban streets, laneways and urban precincts such as Braddon, you’ll find community murals and street art tucked away in surprising spots. Look for the bright artworks throughout Canberra – at local shops, underpasses and Tocumwal Lane in the city. The ACT Government provides designated public locations for mural projects, so there’s always something new to uncover.

Look up - in the Australian War Memorial

While the location isn’t so secret, there are enigmatic stories to be found within the iconic Australian War Memorial. For instance, the walls and ceiling of the Hall of Memory are lined with a stunning mosaic design, which was assembled in Canberra and covers an area of about five tennis courts. The Hall is set above the sacred Pool of Reflection. Patterns of the mosaic were created in sections in Melbourne, then sent to Canberra for assembly in keeping with a complex numbered pattern. You can watch a fascinating BBC video about the design and construction of the mosaic.

Look within - the National Gallery of Australia

Head to the south side of the National Gallery of Australia to discover James Turrell’s Skyspace installation, titled Within without. Head within the work for a view of the sky like no other, which varies at every moment of the day.

The Gallery’s sculpture gardens also offer a moody, introverted and secretive feel as you wander the grounds. The gardens change with each season so are worth exploring time and again.

A foggy sculpture in the garden at the National Gallery of Australia

Look down - in the National Portrait Gallery

A secret to many, you’ll find the strips of granite on the floor of the main entrance hall at the National Portrait Gallery come from every state and territory in Australia. When you enter the gallery, walk the entirety of the floor and you can say you have been across Australia.

Look outside - the city limits

Talk to local Canberra Secrets author and tour operator, Marg Wade, to uncover some of Canberra’s best hidden adventures, heritage sites and lesser-known finds. Marg notes that there is a surprise display of thousands of daffodils within Uriarra Forest at the old Sherwood Homestead, perfect for a hike at the beginning of spring.

Or take the kids for a glimpse of native Australian wildlife at Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary where you may just get a peek at the locally extinct Eastern Bettong.

A Eastern Bettong in a natural habitat at Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary.
See the rare Eastern Bettong in a natural habitat at Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary. Photo: Charles Davis

Looking for more hidden gems?

We are just scratching the surface with this list. Delve further by taking a behind-the-scenes tour at many of the national attractions. You’ll be amazed by the architecture, history, facts and secret stories on offer.

Here are more hidden gems and unknowns about Canberra’s history.